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Entry Level: Aaron Stainthorpe Visits The Frog & Toad


Entry Level is a new series where musicians re-examine the records that piqued their interests in heavy and loud music as children and young adults.

The Frog & Toad. That’s what did it for me. Took me from ‘normal’ metal and on into the extremes – and I never looked back. In fact, forward is the only way I looked as I decided to form a band with like minded chaps, and made a damn fine niche for ourselves. And where did we all meet? The Frog & Toad rock club in Bradford, Yorkshire.

This wasn’t my introduction to metal though. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was, by Iron Maiden. Blasted out at an army youth disco in Germany where we lived on a military base as my father was in the 79 Railway Squadron. The delivery, the narrative, and the brazen length had piqued my interest, but it wasn’t until we returned to England and were exposed to The Friday Night Rock Show with Tommy Vance, that I became a member of the metal fraternity proper. Dio, Deep Purple, AC/DC and the Irons were all staples with Motörhead leading the pack for outrageous speed and volume. Over time a friend suggested we pay a visit to this club he’d heard about in a nearby city, he thought it was called the “Rat & Badger” or something, so we jumped on a bus and took a ride into oblivion, in a nice way of course. Upon arrival we were met by a lengthy queue outside the building, populated by folk wearing similar t-shirts to our own — something we never saw in our home town!

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We felt akin with these people and our blood ran quicker through our veins knowing we were about to hear our favourite tunes played really loud and may even indulge in a little head banging. Unbeknownst to us, the first couple of hours at the Frog & Toad were dedicated to thrash/death/speed metal — genres I didn’t even know existed so got quite excited about the matter.

First song of the night? “Equimanthorn” by black metal kings Bathory. Fuck me, I was blown away!! My ears were ripped off and my eyes popped out of my head when I saw moshing on the dance floor for the first time. It was like some barbaric practice being played out by selected cultists. I was fascinated.

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Next up — “Master of Puppets.” Heaviest thing I’d ever heard and still an absolute classic to this day. The mosh pit was twice the size, and ferocious, circulating the floor, clockwise and dispensing it’s members into the watching crowd from time to time, who injected these brave souls right back into the fray, with gusto. It was calamity to say the least. The raw nature of the experience had me hooked.

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When “Raining Blood” came on and the rush to the floor began, I joined in, despite having no idea who Slayer were. It was like a scene from Hieronymus Bosch! I went to bed that night, or early the next morning to be precise, very much bruised and bloody but with an intent to discover more of this cacophonous madness.

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A train ride in to Leeds saw me back to my favoured Crash Records, I bypassed the NWOBHM and headed for the extreme metal section of vinyl — an area of the shop I didn’t even know was there. I bought all the aforementioned records and a fistful of others too, just because I liked the cover art and became an avid collector of this type of music for a very long time. I remember now the guy behind the counter who raised an eyebrow at my selection, nodded sagely and took my cash. He knew.

These formative years gave me such pleasure and guidance that I began to feel a strong urge to become part of the genre, not content with just watching, but performing, too. And there were a couple of bands that helped me take that first step: Swedish doom merchants Candlemass and Swiss avant-garde dark metallers Celtic Frost. Their respective albums Nightfall and To Mega Therion were massive influences for me and my new mates, so we decided to form a band that would create similar sounds but with enough of a difference to make us original. My Dying Bride was formed one night back in 1990 and has never looked back. Forward is where we’re looking, the past is dead. Long live extreme metal!

Aaron Stainthorpe has fronted seminal gothic/death/doom metal My Dying Bride from its impetus in 1990. The Ghost of Orion releases March 6th on Nuclear Blast.

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